Re-envisioning Immigration

Visualizations of immigration to the USA: 1917, 1818, 1917.

Since presenting a paper on “Visualizing immigration to the United States” at the 2019 Design History Society conference, I’ve been building a visual library of posters, magazine spreads, title pages, illustrations, and even typefaces that use design to communicate messages about immigration policy and public opinion. Once Type Specimens heads to the printer, it will be time to start a new project. At first glance, typographic history and immigration policy seem entirely unconnected. Yet both are informed by widely shared—and just as widely debated—opinions about social identity, cultural context, visual communication, popular opinion, and the market economy. As I dig into this project, I’ll investigate the historical origins of today’s popular, regressive, and ultimately harmful visualizations of immigration. Then I’ll apply lessons learned to engage important present-day questions: How does screen-based media shift our contemporary dialogues? Instead of remaining silent, or circulating visual messaging in an echo chamber, how might design promote socially responsible and broadly successful visual messaging around immigration policy? How do the visual stories we’re telling and consuming inform the actions we take in our everyday lives?

By dorigriffin

Graphic designer, design historian, bibliophile, typophile, classical music groupie.